Saturday, December 31, 2005
The town of Monmouth is a pleasantly situated place although infested with clone shops. This is balanced by the presence of both a Waitrose and a Marks & Spencer Simply Food (see, I get my priorities right).
(The title for today's blog was supplied by a passer-by)
Friday, December 30, 2005
The picture harks back to the last few days when we have experienced a real taste of winter, the sort of weather that always takes the authorities and the public in this country by surprise. We have become complaisant.
Fortunately I was able to take the photograph indoors in the warm. The object is made of glass not ice. The art of illusion.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Hang on. That’s not a good idea, I didn't think it through; physically shopping in the sales (no doubt referred to as a 'person present transaction' in modern jargon) is akin to listening to Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley - why would we want to do it? No, a better bet would be to visit the sales on-line. Then we can have the pleasure of waiting in all day later in the month for a carrier to turn up - or not (a recurrent theme).
Still, all in all, it's not a bad time of the year. We get to spend quality time (what an abysmal phrase!) with friends and family, we can eat foods that society declares off-limits throughout the rest of the year, like Christmas pudding, and we get the pleasure of giving and receiving. On balance, I think we bear up fairly well in the circumstances (new entry in the 'tenuous link to picture' category).
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Fortunately some of the things we see in images are less scary. My daughter, Louisa, commented on the zebras in today's picture. Not that many of them come down to the Avon to drink of an evening – we were just lucky.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Some animals have no choice when it comes to injury. They suffer as a result of human selfishness. An example; A precise figure for the number of swans and wildfowl injured by fishing tackle in Britain is not known but is thought to be at least 2000 a year. Does that sound reasonable? And is it avoidable? Unfortunately I don't think so, not if we can't get one leg into a pair of pyjama bottoms without falling over. Still a bit of evolution to go yet, I think.
(Apologies to Bob for yet another bird picture)
Monday, December 26, 2005
- Knitting, correct way to cast on and various stitch combinations - Dave (son-in-law), Louisa (daughter), Monica and my mother
- Big lenses (we're not that interested in knitting) - Bob (brother), Pete (another brother), myself
- Is it easier to cut a round Christmas cake or a square one? - Dad, Mum
- Are sprouts edible delights or the devil's doodahs? - All
Mum's nut roast with onion gravy, first rate, Stilton & Nut Pie, delicious. Dad's merinque, well up to scratch - very tangy filling, good crunch and sweetness to the topping. Cake also A1 with plenty of marzipan.
(Also present in a supporting role, Bob's dog, Tarry, who made no comment on any of the subjects discussed but did show great interest in the food)
Sunday, December 25, 2005
The bag smells of lavender which is supposed to be very restful - insomniacs use it in pillows, I believe. I like the thought that my camera will feel rested and unstressed as it snuggles into the bag's invitingly scented embrace. I don’t suppose it will do much for my stress though - some of the shots I attempt play hell with my knees. It's a long way down there when you're six foot three (that's one point nine metres to the imperially challenged). Perhaps I should get some liniment-impregnated trousers**.
I could show you a picture of the beanbag which is blue and doesn’t appear to contain any beans but that would be far too tedious for words. So I won’t.
That’s all, folks, enjoy your day.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Fortunately Nature itself can provides the right touch. Even on a dull overcast day, this petal floating in a bird bath at St Peter's, Bengeworth can add more than a touch of the Saturnalian spirit.
If you're out hedging your bets this evening around midnight, enjoy the Mass. If you're not, curl up with a good book by Richard Dawkins.
Friday, December 23, 2005
As there was a pleasant looking sunset in the offing this evening, I decided to saunter down Broadway Lane to the water meadows and see what I could fit in the frame. In order to make this as difficult as possible, I took a narrow lens rather than a wide and wore the wrong type of shoes.
This is the image that most appealed to me but where does it fall in Michael's system. Is it a snapshot, a postcard or an image? The criteria he bases his judgement on is whether it has emotional content, something to get your heart racing. That is difficult to call as I think it depends so much on the viewer. When we listen to music our reaction is in many ways culturally defined, it's what we were brought up to enjoy (how else can you explain the cult of Elvis Presley) and I'm sure that an element of that is present when we look at pictures. One person's snapshot is another person's image. (I apologise for the PC use of the word 'person' - I won't do it again).
Stiil that's all very serious - what really matters is that I enjoyed taking the photographs despite having muddy feet.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
The press, as usual, had spun horror stories about the state of the roads today and the millions of people endeavouring to leave our sceptred isle for foreign parts. Thus warned, I left with plenty of time in hand and, with the way these thing go, I arrived far too early. The M25 was so empty I suspected there had been an alien landing somewhere and I drove into the short stay car park at Terminal 3 without even getting stopped at a set of lights. Incidentally if Gordon Brown ever seriously wants to reduce the National Debt, he should take up a franchise on airport parking - rip-off Britain in spades.
Yesterday I contrived a link to an image by implying the need for a chat over a beer. If that were to happen, this is probably the inn where it would take place (another nebulous link - getting desperate now).
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
As if that isn't difficult enough, although the daylight hours now start to lengthen, the time of sunrise continues to advance - in Pershore today it was at 08:13, on January 4th it will be 08:16 and only after that date will it start to recede. I went in search of an explanation and the BBC obliged - it befuddled me (and I hate befuddlement). The Times also tried to explain it a few weeks ago -they also lost me.
What I did glean from these two impeccable sources is that the Earth is a bit wonky (to put it scientifically). I could really do with someone explaining it to me over a pint or two. After all, two heads is supposed to be better than one and that is the most contrived link to a picture I've yet attempted.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
This is the alternative - it provides none of the above but is probably better than looking at a sooty black hole.
Monday, December 19, 2005
On a lighter note (pun intended), I continue with my fascination with sun through windows. This projection is of one of the west windows in Pershore Abbey.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
The Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold was the last fought in the English Civil War. The action took place on March 21st, 1646 and resulted in a defeat for the Royalists. We are fortunate in mainland Britain not to have suffered a full-blown civil conflict since then although doubtless we could find an excuse for one if we tried hard enough; such is the nature of the beast.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Stow is a strange town. We saw more than our fair share of Hooray Henry's (if there is such a thing as a fair share of these strange examples of the human race). There was a sale of cashmere clothing on in the town hall; the style of the garments offered would have not looked out of place in films like 'Gosford Park' or 'Howard's End' yet they must meet a need. We also encountered that curious breed of shop assistant that is indigenous to such towns, the twenty-something year-old blonde who enlivens your day with a stomach churning display of flabby midriff. Her well-honed customer skills consist of total oblivion as to your presence coupled with the placing of a series of phone calls to her friends who are obviously as vacuous as she is.
Image-wise the weather continues to bless us with solar radiance. I had a couple of attempts at making something out of this old brewery office - not sure what I was after or whether I like what I've got. I just felt there was something there I ought to be photographing – hopefully this strange compulsion is curable.
Friday, December 16, 2005
The above mini-rant has almost nothing to do with today's pictures except that there is a water connection. There are no cod in the River Avon as far as I know. What fish there are will no doubt be bone-ridden and unpalatable. Nor are there any fish in the fountain by the canal basin at Stratford-upon-Avon but there was a leaf. Just out of interest I photographed it both across the light and against it. The difference is quite dramatic and not the least bit fishy.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Monica's Honda Jazz was one-year-old this week and through the letter box popped this birthday cake. We haven't tried it yet but we may once I've found out what E500, E471, E260, E262, E405, E413, E422, E202, E171, E172, E153, E104, E135, E122, E124, E131, E132, E110, E102, E155, and E129 do. The last thing I need is to become hyperactive.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
I quite like benches. They often make good images as well as being handy places to prop the bike up when I'm cycling. They're a comfortable (compared to a bicycle saddle) perch for knocking back a pork pie or home-brew ham sandwich. However sitting on a bench will present you as the proverbial duck to all and sundry. Sat on one you can interact with the local drunk who will impress you with his knowledge of the real ales of Gloucestershire or the real meths of the DIY store. Or you can fall victim to one of the charity muggers who have invaded our towns recently, financial thugs, anxious to sign you up and take their obscene cut of your donation.
Happily Winchcombe was deprived of any of these worthies on Monday as far as I could tell. I was safe to approach and photograph this fine example of the iron-founder's art, lit almost horizontally by the mid-morning sun.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
My matutinal peregrinations today took me off across the northern slopes of Bredon Hill. The weather was ideal for winter cycling - minimal wind and intermittent swathes of golden yellow sunlight flooding the Vale.
During one of the bright outbursts I snuck into the church at Little Comberton. The south facing windows are quite small but allow some good shafts of light into the interior whose effects I have tried to capture.
Monday, December 12, 2005
Neither of us has exhausted Pershore yet. It might not have the striking street furniture of Florence, Sienna or the towns of Provence but it can still produce a few surprises such as the window projection I put up a couple of days ago. We spend a lot of time investigating alleyways and yards, trying desperately not to look as if we're eyeing the premises up for a bit of smash and grab! Today's image is the result of such a foray down a snicket to see if we could get to the river. We couldn't but, looking back, I caught sight of a bit of red which might fit this month's theme. I then clocked the silhouette of the two intrepid photographers. Two for the price of one, you lucky people!
Sunday, December 11, 2005
I noticed it while wandering down a side street in Moreton-in-Marsh yesterday afternoon looking for red objects for my Theme of the Month. Monica was ferreting around in a charity shop and I was wondering how much longer we could hold off before descending on Tilley's for scones and tea (this blog gets more like a food column every day - gorgeous fruit scone, by the way, and first-rate apple & cinnamon cake).
The search for red was unrequited; I was overwhelmed by a plethora of Christmas objects. Roll on the New Year!
Saturday, December 10, 2005
All was not lost however. Even walking around Pershore, a town I've known for over twenty five years, I'm still finding images in unexpected places. I must have walked past the town hall building hundreds of times and never clocked this window reflection before. Another benefit of the mid-winter all-day magic hour.
Friday, December 09, 2005
If you've not met them before, all I can say is that they're a sort of skirt which apparently come in plain or pleated. Perhaps frilly is also an option. You use them to hide the base of your bed. I mean, how Victorian is that? Are bed divan bases erotic or something? I can't say they arouse me.
And the installation! What a palaver! Haved you tried moving a mattress? It's about as easy a job as herding cats. Hernia and/or rupture-inducing effort is required and all so that you can hide the bed's immodest bottom.
Someone's having a laugh.
And, what's more, these particular valances are Australian. They must have sent them over as a joke, see what else they can fool the Poms into buying. After all they've been successful with Foster's and Castlemaine 4X (and 'Neighbours').
Still, £2 each (Yes, we bought more than one - well, you have to, don't you, at that price).
There are still a few places in Great Britain where retailers provide the sort of service that would be seen as unprofitable or unnecessary by many of the companies that inhabit the shopping malls and retail parks. I know it's difficult to credit but there are still shops where the staff have been trained to serve and provide advice rather than chat amongst themselves and sniff.
Brays of Malvern are one of the few who have hung on to the quaint notion that the customer is an essential part of the business and to be cosseted - the staff are friendly, helpful and courteous, even my size 12 feet are no trouble (and, in fact, seem to have acquired some notoriety).
I've always wanted notorious feet.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Back in the 1970s the writers of 'Monty Python's Flying Circus' came up with a sketch about Woody and Tinny Words. I don't know whether this was an original concept of theirs or something they'd picked up elsewhere but I'm sure there's an element of truth in it. Some words do sound woody - they have an earthy natural resonance - words like rotund, rump, burble. These are pleasant words you wouldn't mind spending a day with, strolling arm-in-arm through dappled shadow, surrounded by the sounds of leaves rustling, birds trilling.
Ah, now there's the rub - in that last sentence, the theory fell down. Rustling, trilling, are these woody? I think not; both have a strong tinge of tinniness about them yet they describe pleasurable experiences. Admittedly they are not harsh, hard words like spike or bin-liner but they're still on the tinny side. I suppose it works both ways; boom has a good woody feel yet it is often associated with disaster. Doom has a warm sound although this is easily countered by one of its partners, harbinger, which is about as tinny as you can get. Prophet doesn't help, nor laden, nor watch, all words with stannic tendencies.
Right, I've no idea where I'm going with this now so, in the best Monty Python sketch tradition, I'll just........
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Reflection shots are part of the armoury of images snapped by the photographer-about-town with his dinky little digital gadget. Actually I'm sure I took the above with my D70 which is definitely not the least bit dinky or a particularly subtle piece of apparatus. I had a contretemps with a very rude and ill-bred woman in Cirencester earlier this year after her daughter managed to walk into it as it hung from my shoulder - hopefully it taught the child to look where it was going.
Today's image, which was shot in Aigues-Mortes, features a bicycle, possibly one of the most photogenic of man's inventions, way ahead of the motor car and only slightly behind the steam engine (why anyone would want a car in a photograph is beyond me, other than as a reflective surface for some more interesting subject).
If I could be bothered I might succumb to the urge to photoshop out the brightly lit leaves on the right; since I can't be, I won't.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
There is very little positive that you can say about the Maybird Retail Park in Stratford-on- Avon. It combines hideous architecture with a nondescript and depressing array of shops. If you keep your back to it, however, it is possible to find something verging on the photogenic. Looking out across the car park just after sundown, the blight is obscured and nature holds sway.
Monday, December 05, 2005
I've already written about my coffee addiction. I'm pleasantly surprised by how much better the British are getting at producing a decent brew. Even some of the big chains like Costa can come up with something presentable, to my taste buds, at least. The restaurants in John Lewis and Waitrose stores are consistently superior to more run-of-the mill establishments. However small independents can usually better them - locally that would be the 'Pastry Case' in Pershore, 'Pepper & Oz' in Malvern and an unpretentious little cafe in Ludlow that I can't remember the name of (I was PDA-less that day).
The standard is still set abroad. I began my quest in the 1980s after a visit to a small patisserie in Chateau Gontier in France. The peak so far has been achieved by Cafe Creme in Woollahra, Sydney which uses Toby's Estate Coffee. At home I'm into Taylor's of Harrogate's Christmas Blend, purchased from Capers in Pershore.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Saturday, December 03, 2005
In many towns and villages the only sculptured objects outside the church are the war memorials, most of which were erected after the Great War. They take many forms from simple tablets to large set-pieces. Early examples often used war paraphernalia such as cannon captured from the enemy.
I'm always taken with the elegance of those employing a winged figure representing 'Immortality'. In January I published an image of an example in Pershore Abbey in my yearly journal. Today's was taken a few days ago in Skipton in Yorkshire.
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Commercial greed and stupidity will always overcome tradition if we allow it to. The last day for posting to the farthest corners of the earth (other than perhaps Antartica) is in the second week of December - plenty of time to buy that pair of socks with animated reindeer that you're sure Uncle Darren in Tuvalu will appreciate. Don't buy anything before today. Don't do it, you know it makes sense! Make Christmas special again!
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
The winter solstice is now galloping towards us. The brooms and rakes have been stored away, the boats slumber at their moorings and Pershore Abbey stands proud in the distance, ready to burst forth with choral offerings in the festive season.
Now I'm going out to give myself a good kicking for writing such codswallop!
Monday, November 28, 2005
The newspapers of the popular press (and some of their classier competitors) have been stirring up the populace with talk of the impending arrival of the most severe winter in living history. As if to give some credibililty to their Jeremiahesque posturing, light snow arrived in the Vale of Evesham this afternoon, dissuading me from venturing forth on my bicycle. Senility may be just around the corner but it has not yet arrived.
It's a sad reflection on our society that in many parts of the country, if you don't secure something, it will disappear. This shadowy device was in place to deter the light-fingered from removing a bird table from outside a shop in Evesham. If the reports in the local paper week-by-week of thefts, burglaries and break-ins in the Vale of Evesham are any guide, it was a wise move.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
The attractive town of Kirkby Lonsdale in Cumbria has any number of shops selling the sort of objects that are visually stimulating but functionally moribund - scented candles, crystal balls, aromatherapeutic oils, throws and other non-essentials. However on the corner of the market place, shining like a beacon in the night, is a shop whose stock is quite the opposite. It addresses every sense (including hearing as I can't resist crunching a humbug) with its wealth of colour, taste and suckability.
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Over one of our occasional fry-ups at Sugar & Spice in Pershore this morning, Peter and I fell to discussing the way that, given a bit of sun and the approach of the midwinter solstice, the 'magic hour' seems to last all day.
Possibly this pair of pictures I took in Arnside, Lancashire, yesterday, illustrate the point. Both were taken at about one-o'clock. What they don't show is the biting north wind sweeping across this arm of Morecombe Bay down from the mountains of the Lake District. Not photography for wimps.
Friday, November 25, 2005
I wish I'd got there first.
Mon and I decided to go out for a seven mile walk in the fog earlier in the week - not sure if the decision was an example of bravado or senility, only time will tell. As we laboured up the hill from Settle to Catrigg Force, we passed a copse enshrouded in mist. A single leaf held on against all odds, reluctant to join its fallen comrades and meet its end.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Saturday, November 19, 2005
The fog didn't lift from the Vale of Evesham today so the only answer was to make for the hills. Up on the Malverns we were treated to yet another day of glorious sunshine. In the church yard at Great Malvern, autumn was hanging on, adding a touch of rusty warmth to the sombre setting.
Friday, November 18, 2005
This motor cruiser at Wyre Lock, basking in the glorious sun skipping across the meadow from Pershore, doesn't look like it has any intention of a trip out on to the river this side of Christmas.
Still it would probably be a warmer mode of transport than cycling. Despite the sunshine, today brought a timely reminder of how chill the winter can be. Since I last cycled nine days ago, I've brought the full winter kit of topcoat, bodywarmer, gloves, scarf and warm socks into service. Not for me the smooth look of lycra - too much fat, too much dignity.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
I've just returned from Leyton in east London where I've been earning a crust (granary, made by a French baker in Tewkesbury) working on yet another poker programme. The normal start time for these events is early afternoon which gives me a bit of time to kill in the mornings. Yesterday I drove out to Chipping Ongar. The combination of a church spire, flag and backlighting sun proved interesting but it is yet another image which cries out for a third element. Unfortunately there are not many spare pelicans in Essex.
Poker tournaments are open-ended and I finished work this morning at 03.30. I drove off through a deserted London and out onto empty roads, enchanted by moonlight and the glistening of a hard frost.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
In my 'Theme of the Month' this month I'm exploring images depicting 'fives'. It seems to be accepted that groups of things work better in odd numbers than even. Even when you've put a pair of candlesticks on the mantlepiece above your fire (assuming you have one) it is difficult to resist adding a clock, an ornament or a picture in the middle to 'balance it out'.
I feel the same about this group of pelicans I photographed at Lake Hume on the Victoria - New South Wales border back in April. I ought to 'photoshop' another one in by the lump of wood in the middle distance, just to achieve that pictoral satisfaction!
I have the same dilemma with another picture taken that day. Do I add another pelican, another daughter or another wife?